The scale (or ladder) of perfection



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SECTION II

How Pride in Heretics and in Hypocrites is deadly sin

AN heretic sinneth deadly in pride, for he chooseth his rest and delight in his own opinion, and in his own sayings, for he imagineth them to be true; which opinion or sayings are against God and holy Church, and, therefore, he sinneth mortally in pride, for he loveth himself and his own will and wit so much, that though it be plainly against the ordinance of holy Church, he will not leave it, but resteth thereon, as upon the truth, and so maketh he it his god; but he beguileth himself, for God and holy Church are so united and accorded together that whoso doth against the one doth against both. And, therefore, he that saith he loveth God, and keepeth His biddings, and despiseth holy Church, and setteth at nought the laws and ordinances thereof, made by the head and supreme thereof appointed to govern all Christians, he lieth, for he chooseth not God, but chooseth the love of himself, contrary to the love of God, and so sinneth mortally. And wherein he imagineth most to please God, he most displeaseth Him; for he is blind, and will not see.

Of this blindness and this false resting of an heretic in his own feeling, speaketh the wise man thus: There is a way that seemeth right to a man, and the last end of it bringeth him to endless death.126 This way specially is called heresy: for other fleshly sinners that sin mortally and lie therein, commonly condemn themselves, and feel biting in conscience, because they go not the right way; but an heretic supposeth that he doth well, and teacheth well, yea, and that no man doth and teacheth so well as he, and so judgeth his way to be right, and, therefore, feeleth he no biting of conscience nor humility in heart. And, soothly, if God of His great mercy sendeth him not humility at the last end, he goeth to hell. And, nevertheless, yet weeneth he to have done well and that he shall get the bliss of Heaven for his teaching.


The hypocrite sinneth mortally in pride.

The hypocrite also sinneth deadly in pride. He is an hypocrite that chooseth vain joy in himself, as the rest and full delight of his heart in this manner.

When a man doth many good deeds bodily and ghostly, and then is put into his mind by the suggestion of the enemy, the beholding of himself and those good deeds, how good, how holy he is, how worthy in men's deem, and how high in God's sight, above other men, he perceiveth this stirring, and receiveth it willingly, for he judgeth it to be good, and from God, forasmuch as it is true (for he doth these good deeds better than other menu). And when it is received thus by consent of his will, there ariseth from it in his heart so great a love and delight in himself, that he hath so much grace, that for the time it ravisheth his mind out of all other thoughts, both corporal and spiritual, and setteth it upon vain joy in himself, as on a rest of his heart. This ravishing in spiritual pride is delectable, and, therefore, he keepeth it, holdeth it, and nourisheth it as much as he can. For this love and delight he prayeth, watcheth, weareth haircloth, and doth other afflictions, and all these trouble him but little. He pretends to love God, and thanketh Him sometimes with his mouth; sometimes wringeth a tear out of his eye, and then he thinketh all safe enough. But soothly, all this is for love of himself which he chooseth, and mistaketh for love and joy in God, and therein lies all his sin. Not that he willingly chooseth sin, as it is sin, but chooseth this delight and joy that he takes for good, as the rest and repose of his soul. Which, because he doth without any striving against it, or displeasure at it in his will, therefore is it sin; for he judgeth it to be a joy in God, and it is not so, and, therefore, sinneth he mortally. Job saith thus of an hypocrite: The joy of an hypocrite is as it were for a moment. If his pride rise up even to the heavens, and his head touch the clouds, at the last end he shall be cast out as a dung-heap.127 The joy of an hypocrite is but a point, for if he worship himself never so much, and joy in himself never so much, all his lifetime, and bepaint himself with all his good deeds, in the sight and praisings of the world, at the last it will prove right nought but sorrow and pain.

But thou wilt say: Sure there be few or none such that are so blind as to hold and choose vain joy in themselves for joy in God.

As to this I cannot answer, nor will, though I could; only I will tell thee this one thing, that there be many hypocrites, and, nevertheless, they think themselves to be none, and that there be many that dread and fear themselves to be hypocrites, and soothly are none; who is the one, and who is the other, God knows, and none but He. Whoso will humbly dread, shall not be beguiled; and whoso thinketh himself secure, he may lightly fall. For St Paul saith: Whose esteemeth himself to be something, whereas indeed he is nothing, he beguileth himself.128


SECTION III

A short Exhortation to Humility and Charity, with a Conclusion how a Man may know how much Pride he hath in him

Now by what hath been said, thou mayest (if thou wilt understand them) conceive comfort for thy degree of living, and also matter of humility. For though it be true, that (in case thou come to Heaven) thou shalt there receive so much reward in special, for thy state of life; nevertheless it may be that there is many a wife, and many a woman, living at large in the world, that shall be nearer God than thou, and shall love God more, and know Him better than thou, for all thy religious state, and that ought to be a shame to thee. Yet if thou labour to get love and charity as fully and as perfectly as those that live in the world (for thou mayest have it by the gift of God, as much as they that live in worldly business), then shalt thou have as much of the Sovereign or Essential reward as they; and, moreover, shalt also have another singular and accidental reward and worship, for thy state of Religion which the others shall not have. If then thou wilt do well, be humble, and forget thy state, as if it were right nought; for in sooth it is so, that is, right nought in itself. And let thy desire and business be to destroy sin, and to get charity, and humility, and other ghostly virtues, for therein lieth all.
How a man may know how much pride is in him.

I have well-nigh forgotten that image I spake of, but now I turn again thereto. If thou wilt know how much pride is therein, thou mayest try it thus: Look to it wisely, and flatter not thyself; if loving, praising or worshipping, or human favours of worldly men or others, be pleasing to thy heart, and thou turnest them into vain gladness, and well paying of thyself, thinking secretly in thy heart, that men ought to praise thy life, and reward thy speeches more than other men's; and also on the contrary, if it be so, that when men reprove thee, and set thee at nought, hold thee for a fool, or an hypocrite, or slander thee, or speak evil of thee falsely, and in any other way disease129 thee unreasonably, and for this thou feelest in thy heart a grievous heaviness against them, and a great rising in thy heart, with an unwillingness to suffer any shame or disgrace in the sight of the world; if, I say, it be thus with thee, it is a token that there is much pride in this dark image, seem thou never so holy in the sight of men. For though these stirrings be but little and venial, nevertheless they show well that there is much pride hid in the ground of thy heart, as the fox dareth in his den. These stirrings, with many more, spring so fast out of this image that thou scarcely canst do any good deed but it will be mingled with some pride or vain delight in thyself, and so with thy pride thou defileth all thy good deeds, and makest them loathesome in the sight of thy Lord. I say not that they are lost because they are mingled with this pride. But I say that those good deeds are not so pleasant to thy Lord as they would be if they were simple and truly rooted in the virtue of humility. And, therefore, if thou wilt have cleanness of heart, to come to the love of God, it behoveth thee not only to fly the rest and repose of thy heart in vain-glory, by willingly consenting to pride, and also the wretchless liking therein out of frailty against thy will, but also the very feeling itself of pride, as well as thou canst, which will not be done unless thou be full quick and diligent about the keeping of thy heart, as I shall tell thee hereafter.

CHAPTER VI
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